Shutdown Shenanigans at CNS
CNSNews.com had to follow Trump's flip-flops on the shutdown to keep parroting the party line, on top of its absolute refusal to fact-check anything Trump says or tweets.
By Terry Krepel
CNSNews.com, like a good, loyal conservative media outlet, knew what it had to do in the face of a possible government shutdown over issues of border security: parrot the Trump line, no matter how much it changes and even if he misleads or gets things wrong, and always paint Democrats as the bad guy.
CNS was, in fact, gearing up that narrative well before the shutdown. A Dec. 11 blog post by Craig Millward, for instance, uncritically quoted Republican Rep. Steve Scalise -- appearing on Mark Levin's radio show, natch -- declaring that "if Chuck Schumer wants to shut down the government because he doesn’t want to secure America’s border, that’s a fight that he’s going to lose."
But that same day, President Trump destroyed that narrative by declaring he would take responsibility for any shutdown, as CNS' Melanie Arter wrote: "President Donald Trump on Tuesday threatened to shut down the federal government if he doesn’t get border security during a White House meeting with incoming House Speaker-Designate Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.)."
So CNS was forced to rejigger its narrative to keep it from being overtaken by events. That seems to be how we got this Dec. 14 article by Emily Ward insisting that a government shutdown is not that big of a deal:
Seventy-five percent of the federal government is already funded through all of fiscal year 2019, according to the House Committee on Appropriations. That means a total government shutdown cannot happen.
As if to complete the synergystic circle, a Dec. 18 blog post by Ward touted how Levin "quoted from a news story on CNSNews.com" on his radio show about how "75 percent of the government is already funded, as reported by CNSNews.com." Ward didn't disclose that she wrote the story that Levin was referencing.
When Trump flip-flopped to blame Democrats for a shutdown -- despite his unambiguous declaration otherwise -- CNS flip-flopped as well.
Melanie Arter was in full stenography mode as she wrote in a Dec. 21 article: "As the Senate considers funding legislation that includes money for border security, President Donald Trump said Friday that if Democrats don’t vote to fund a border wall, it will be considered a Democrat shutdown." Arter failed to mention that Trump said just a few days earlier that he would accept responsibility for a shutdown. Still in stenography mode, Arter also wrote:
The president said former President Ronald Reagan tried unsuccessfully to get funding for a border wall years ago.
But as an actual news organization pointed out, that's not true at all. Reagan is on record as saying, "Rather than talking about putting up a fence, why don’t we work out some recognition of our mutual problems, make it possible for them to come here legally with a work permit. And then while they’re working and earning here, they pay taxes here. And when they want to go back they can go back."
Because of Arter's refusal to fact-check the president, CNS has once again published fake news. It wouldn't be the last time.
A Dec,. 21 article by Susan Jones complained in its headline that "Schumer Cries, 'Trump Shutdown!'" -- even though that's what Trump himself had been proudly proclaiming.
After the government did shut down, an anonymously written Dec. 22 CNS article knew where to assign blame per Trump's instructions, made clear with the headline "Schumer-Led Democrats Shutdown [sic] 25% of Government to Block Border Wall Funding." The article uncritically quoted Trump saying we should "call it a Democrat shutdown" -- again failing to mention that Trump was saying the opposite just a few days earlier -- and declare: "Senate Democrats are able to block the walland shutdown the as-yet-unfunded part of the federal governmentbecause there are only 51 Republicans in the Senate. In order to invoke cloture and end debate on a piece of legislation, the Senate needs 60 votes out of its 100 members rather than a simple majority."
Even the alarmist headline take on "25% of government" being shut down is a flip-flop as well, given that CNS was previously downplaying any shutdown as minimal a few days earlier when Trump was willing to accept blame.
CNS' fealty to Trump didn't change at all once the government shutdown became reality -- but it exhibited even greater refusal to fact-check.
A Jan. 2 article by Jones uncritically rehashed several Trump tweets, including claims that the Obamas have a "ten foot Wall around their D.C. mansion/compound" and that the idea of a concrete wall "was NEVER ABANDONED." In fact, as an actual news outlet reported, there is no "ten foot Wall" around the Obamas' house but, rather, chain link fencing and security fencing on top of an existing retaining wall; and Trump has wavered on the kind of wall he wants built.
Meanwhile, Jones was much more opinionated about Democrats she featured. She huffed that Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer highlighted "their plan to end what they call the 'Trump shutdown'" (you know who else called the Trump shutdown? Trump himself) and going on to opine: "One of President Trump's harshest critics in the liberal media, MSNBC's Mika Brzezinski, began Wednesday's "Morning Joe" with a sneer, proving that 2019 is beginning with the same anti-Trump venom that thrived in 2018."
Jones didn't mention that she and the rest of CNS were beginning 2019 with the same pro-Trump stenography that they embraced in 2018.
A Jan. 8 article by Craig Bannister touted how trump sent Department of Homeland Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen's (whose name Bannister misspells as "Nielson") presentation on "the threat of illegal immigration" after "Democrat [sic] leaders refused to hear it at the White House," then repeated many of the numbers in it. But as another actual news outlet reported, several of the numbers are misleading or unsubstantiated; for instance, the claim that "Illegal drugs at the southern border experienced a dramatic spike FY17-FY18" omits the fact that most of those drugs are seized at ports of entry.
The same day, Jones gave a pass to Nielsen (whose name was spelled correctly this time) for refusing to say exactly how many suspected terrorists cross the border because "the exact number is sensitive," then played up her assertion that "I am sure all Americans would agree that even one terrorist reaching our borders is one too many. But as another fact-check that Jones didn't do pointed out, "the terrorist watch list doesn’t mean these are terrorists. It means their names were similar to those of people on the list." The fact-check added: "If any of these people was actually a terrorist, you can bet that we would know by now."
On Jan. 9, Arter devoted an article to Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham slobbering over Trump's Oval Office address on the shutdown, proclaiming it "the most presidential" he has seen Trump. Arter did not permit any dissenting opinion.
In a Jan. 14 article, Bannister highlighted how Trump "described the horrors of women who are bound and gagged by traffickers, crammed into vehicles “three, four, five, six at a time,” and smuggled against their will into the U.S.," adding that "Human traffickers don’t enter through official U.S. checkpoints they go through unsecured areas on the border that don’t have a wall or steel barrier Trump said." In fact, as yet another fact-checker documented:
[H]uman-trafficking experts and advocates for immigrant women have said they are perplexed by this increasingly repeated story in Trump’s repertoire and are at a loss for where he got his information. It was not from them, they say; in fact, they have no idea what he is talking about.
In a Jan. 24 article, Arter quoted only Republicans in attacking Democrats for failing to support a bill that would have allowed the federal government to continue paying federal workers furloughed by the shutdown -- but she didn't explain why Republicans would support paying someone for work that wasn't being done, nor did she clarify that that bill would not have ended the shutdown at all, since the workers would still be forbidden to work.
Another article by Arter the same day was only slightly less biased: Sixteen of its 18 paragraphs were devoted to Republicans attacking Democrats for refusing to negotiate on border security until the shutdown ended.
When Trump did finally cave and permit the reopening of the government while border negotiations continued, CNS didn't want to admit he caved, at least at first. Arter's initial story on Trump announcing the end of the shutdown quoted only Trump, but it waited until the next day (a Saturday) to publish another, anonymously written article highlighting Schumer's speech on the Senate floor before the body voted to reopen the government, conceding in the headline that "Schumer Claims Victory."
When you put political loyalty ahead of journalism -- as CNS is increasingly doing -- this is the kind of "reporting" you get.